Auriemma Weighs in on Big East News

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Huskies coach Geno Auriemma is many things. Soft-spoken is not one of them. But the man's won seven NCAA titles, he's earned the right to speak his mind. (And let's be honest, it's not like he's calling press conferences to wax on about the news of the day; typically, the questions are posed to him and he answers them.)

So when when the media asked Auriemma about the recent conference reshuffling news, he didn't sugarcoat things (via the Hartford Courant).

"You know me, if I think I know something, I'll say it. In this case, I have no idea how we would be configured or how many teams would be invited to play in what divisions. Would we have 18 or 20 teams. All I know is that BCS conferences need to have at least 12 teams, I don't know what the magic number is, other than knowing it's not six. Wherever we go from there will be positive.

"I'm just hoping we can find two programs that will fill the void for the loss of Syracuse and Pitt has created. We are losing two great programs. Not good, great. Hopefully we can replace them with four really, really good programs that will provide the Big East even more depth.

"But if it's true that this is all driven by football, then it doesn't matter what the basketball coaches think, does it? I just think this entire scenario is above and beyond what the basketball coaches want. If you accept the theory that it's football driven, and basketball is a throw in, I have a hard time believing that."

It is hard to believe but it's also true. Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim said it last month, and Louisville coach Rick Pitino and Calhoun have echoed similar sentiments since.

Like the rest of us, Auriemma has no idea on when all this upheaval might be settled. "I just think that something is going to decide the Big East's future," he said. "Might be next week or two weeks or the next month or two years from now. We are either going to get better and stronger or we won't. Whatever happens, I hope it makes us better."

That is a legitimate concern. Should the Big East be weakened by this, it will have an impact on recruiting, too. While it might affect some programs more than others (football, for example, could really suffer), there's every reason to believe that UConn will be less competitive without the allure of playing in a nationally respected conference. And that includes the basketball programs, historically two of the best in the country.

But that doomsday scenario isn't yet upon us, though Auriemma had some thoughts on one of the men praying for it: BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo who spoke publicly last week about keeping UConn out of the Big East.

"If you're a program that wants to go into a major conference, and your football team may finish sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth or 10th in most years, you will still get the same money. It may not even be about competitiveness anymore; can we win a championship every year.

"Obviously, there are some schools that have made the decision to go to other leagues and have suffered tremendously on the field and on the court. But they've benefited money wise. And that team is probably not that far from Connecticut."

Boom. Roasted. Thanks for coming, tip your waitresses, etc.

For his part, head coach Jim Calhoun remains steadfast in his belief that University will do what's in its best interests.

"My loyalty will always be to the Big East," he said, via the Courant, "but my thought process will always be, 'what's best for UConn.' … We can still tell [recruits] 'you can come and play in a hell of a basketball league.' It's still strongest league for basketball, stronger than the ACC or anyone else. ... So it hasn't yet - yet - affected us."

But it might, and that's the problem.

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